Alano Español (Spanish Alano)

Country of origin:
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fawn, brindle, black & brindle
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • forms strong bonds with all family members
  • easy to groom
  • good guardian and watchdog
  • independent and dominant
  • needs a lot of daily exercises

The Alano Español is a massive dog with intimidating appearance and many talents. Its ancestors were brought to Spain many centuries ago and were initially used in herding, hunting and guarding. This breed is not suited for novice dog’s owner since it requires a stern approach to its training and socialisation.

The Alano Español is a truly old breed whose development mostly took place in Spain. It’s very likely that it descended from the formidable molosser-type dogs that accompanied the Alanos during their invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 406 AC. Evidently the breed owed its present name to this nomadic people. This folk moved into these territories in a search for fresh pastures for their livestock and their dogs served as guardians of the flock and were also used for hunting purpose.

The modern Alano Español hardly carries any resemblance to its ancient version but it surely inherited from it its ferociousness and incredible power. Gradually this dog spread all over the world although its population was mostly concentrated in Spain. The surge of its popularity began in the XV century when Spaniards widely exploited it as a war dog. It was the time of exploration and conquest and it played the role of so-called «attack dog», which was oftentimes seen on ships of Spanish conquistadors in their conquest expeditions. In the XVII century bullfighting was one of the favourite entertainments of Spaniards and the Spanish Alano served as a bullfighting dog. It appeared to be highly suitable for this cruel sport because of its unbelievingly strong bite. Actually this dog is renowned for its powerful jaw with which it’s able hold the victim with an iron grip. That’s why it also ideally fits for large game hunting as well as for guarding a livestock.

By the end of the XIX century technological progress in cattle-raising and hunting deprived the Alano Español of its several initial roles. Moreover the number of dogs declined drastically when in 1883 bullbaiting was finally prohibited in Spain. Absence of organised breeding and constantly decreasing population brought this breed on the verge of extinction. In the 80s of the XX century several concerned fanciers dedicated much their time to locate few purebred specimens, which were scattered all over Spain. The main inspirer of this search, Carlos Contera and his colleagues managed to find several dogs in Extremadura (southwest of Spain) and Castile (central plateau) but majority of Alanos (about 300 members) were discovered in the Encartaciones Valley in northern Spain. Thanks to these findings the breed’s population was successfully restored and nowadays its long-term survival is pretty secured.

Presently the Alano Español is used exclusively for livestock handling and hunting. Nevertheless the dog also demonstrates talents in tracking, guarding, police service, weight pulling, competitive obedience and agility and as a watchdog. However, it hasn’t been yet recognised by any major dogs’ organisations since its population remains too small even in its native country.

Despite its formidable appearance and savage past the Alano Español is notable for a stable and even character. This dog is highly devoted to its family and usually forms tight bonds with every member. However this description only holds true if the dog has received proper socialisation and training since an early age. That’s why it’s only recommended for an experienced dog owner who will be ready to invest enough time in a work with the dog. It’s mostly fine with children but it should never be left with them without supervision. This dog may answer with aggression if it’s teased or rough-housed.

The Alano Español displays natural wariness toward strangers but it won’t bite without serious provocation from their part. This breed possesses a well-developed protective instinct so it can be turned into an excellent watchdog. It’s very responsible in performing its duties so make sure that your fence is high enough so the dog won’t hurt casual passer-by in your absence. In most cases though the intelligent Spanish Alano is capable of assessing the situation very accurately and resorts to aggression only as the last resort. This purports that this dog has all bents for being wonderful guardian.

The Alano Español gets on well with other canines since it used to work with the group of other dogs while performing its duties of a hunter and a herder. However, this dog is strongly inclined to domination so it may lead to cruel confrontation if other dog refuses to submit. That’s why it should always be leashed and muzzled while walking. Other species of animals are not safe around this breed but it will be quite polite with a home cat with which it has been raised since its puppyhood. At the same time any encounter of the Alano Español with a street cat will most surely mean the death sentence for the latter.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia;
• gastric torsion.

The Alano Español’ short coat requires unsubstantial grooming. The weekly brushing will not only help to minimize the amount of hair in your house but it will also maintain the dogs’ coat shiny and healthy-looking. For this procedure a rubber brush will be the best choice. The breed sheds averagely. Unlike other mastiffs the Alano Español isn’t prone to drooling. Bathing should be done only occasionally.

The Alano Español is an exceptionally intelligent breed and therefore it can be trained with reasonable amount of efforts. However it’s very strong-willed and always strives for dominance meaning its trainer should become an unshakable authority for this dog. He should regularly prove its alpha status and be in full control of any situation.

It’s also crucial to handle the dog with firm hand but without unnecessary harshness. Solely positive reinforcement and praise should be applied in its training since it can respond with an open aggression to any kind of physical abuse. With correct approach to the training the Alano Español demonstrates impressive results in agility and obedience competition.

The Spanish Alano is a very powerful and agile dog with a great stamina. Therefore it needs considerable amount of physical activity. For the most part it was kept as an outside dog so this breed is able to take care for its exercise needs itself. Otherwise this breed will enjoy its life to the fullest if it gets at least an hour of vigorous walk each and every day.

The Alano Español should also be provided with ample opportunities to run and play on the territory with a high fence. The dog which receives little or no outlets for its excessive energy will most likely manifest major behavioural problems including being destructive, nervous, hyper active and even aggressive.